High school robotics Compeition

So yesterday I ended up at helping judge a high school robotics competition organized by the local robotics group, but lets rewind a bit.

In september, my friend Daruvin contacted me. He in conjunction with Penguin Robotics was helping to put together workshops to help the high school students learn to program for the robotic systems.

The penguins were past world competitors and had a lot of experience, but they wanted more people to help out the large number of attendees, plus would love people with industry experience to share stories and such.

As I love to mentor and build up people, especially kids, I very quickly signed up. Even got work to sponsor.

Last month due to traveling I wasn’t able to get involved, but when the tournament rolled around and again I was asked if I was up for helping judging I promptly signed up.

We had about 8 people, so that easily allowed us to have pairs. We had 3 groups of 2 setup at tables so the various clubs could come and get reviewed and judged. Some were really amazing and had been doing this for a long while. Others were just starting out and it was a bit better to give them feed back instead of worrying about judges.
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The other judges were outside watching the games, and watched how the various students/drivers performed.

We all kinda rotated at both sections.

During the afternoon, the teams were no longer random, but instead they got to make alliances and go through playoffs to see who would be allowed to goto the next level. We took this opportunity to get together as judges and compare all of our notes.

Once we were able to compare notes and pick winners for each categories, we were able to go watch the finals.

The finals were absolutely tense. I saw one teacher get so excited she was jumping around. It turned out this was the first year her school got to compete or something. She’s been fundraising a while to get it started. Turns out one of her groups won. She nearly collapsed and was in tears. It was so awesome to watch.

Finally everything was announce. Top winners in playoffs. Top driver in skill challenge, top autonomous robots in skill changes, all 5 judges awards. Some teams played off winning as it was nothing, but you could tell all of theme were excited about winning. I didn’t see any poor losers at all. Even the final game of the playoff you could see the losers thinking about how to improve to next time.

Last bits were the most impressive to me. Everyone of course ran off to clean up the tables and robots of their owns, but as soon as that was over, many kids from many different schools, not just the hosts, came back and helped clean up the event stuff. I mean sometimes it was ridiculous that we had 5 kids doing the simplest tasks, but they were all having fun and things were getting done.

I stuck around till the very end, helped with cleanup wherever I could. I had so much fun. I’ll admit the finals and the cleanup were more fun to me than the actual judging, but i enjoyed all of it and would do it again.

I’m so looking forward to next weekend when I’m getting involved with the second workshop Penguin Robotics is putting together. This time they’ll actually have the game field, and two groups going, one for novice and one for advanced. I’m hoping some of my teacher friends can get more involved as well.

I know this is super scattered, but i’m still excited and just thinking of everything, but I learned that a school would need about $1000 to get the basic kit together to field a team. Of course they would still need workspace and teachers/mentors and everything but I figure that’s something more individuals/companies could donate to schools to help them get started. I know I’m going to look into it. Too bad I haven’t kept in touch with my high school at all, it would have been cool to see them there. I think my shop teacher has long since retired too.

Sauce Labs Hipchat Service (and Open Source)

I am absolutely ecstatic to announce the new Sauce Labs and HipChat integration being not only released to the public, but open source as well. Its been officially out for a month now, but we just went ahead and open sourced it.
 
About two months ago now, Atlassian hosted their Atlassian Connect Week out in San Diego. If you do any Atlassian based development, I highly recommend going if you can. It’s so much fun to be surrounded by other developers, and be able to ask the original teams questions when you get stuck.
 
I went into connect week hoping to get a solution for our problem talking to jira server users behind a firewall. Someone had an amazing solution within the first couple hours for me, and I was able to bang out a working prototype in the by the end of the second day.
 
So what do I do now? I had most of the week left over. Well at a previous internal sauce labs hackathon, I had already started playing around with a slack integration, but was kinda disappointed by its public APIs, so didn’t really get very far. I got really excited at the earlier talks about hipchat integration to see how far I could get.
 
It turned out I could get something done pretty quickly. This time I decided to use the atlassian-connect-express framework so I could focus on just implementing features. And what a good choice that was. By the end of the first day, I had test results showing up in chat. By the end of the week, I had screenshots available, test information, even video working. I had a direct connection to some of the developers, so was able to play around with even more features.
 
Curious how it looks? But don’t really want to install it yet? Checkout this awesome animated gif one of our product team members created.
 
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I’m so absolutely excited for this integration, and on top of that, as someone who loves contributing open source, a great example of a working hipchat integration for everyone to learn from and contribute to.